A Book for the Ages: Pedagogy for the Oppressed


Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire (Herder & Herder, 1970)

Although the book sounds subversive everyone especially educators would do well to absorb its message. With the necessary modification it can serve as a backdrop to the window of knowledge that guides each  one of us along our journey to God. A few comments on a specialist’s review, Thomas Groome  |  Feb. 22, 2016, found in the online edition of National Catholic Reporter, (NCR), will entice you to pick up and read.

You need to transpose the words, oppression, liberation, dialogue from the author’s context to use in confrontation with our own modern reality of a media mind controlling environment. Although developed in the 20th century by a Brazilian lawyer for the desperately poor and oppressed in the Northeast of Brazil, its methodology leads the learner to freeing oneself from being co-opted by the imposed values of a consumer society with its hidden systemic domination by the wealthy. The minuscule wealthy class  is bent on imposing its economic, cultural, and ultimately political values through the constant bombardment of controlled media. The following paraphrases the highlights from Groome’s review:

Education is always a “political activity,” deeply influencing the quality of people’s lives and their socio-cultural-political context leading to awareness and eventual liberation or freedom of imposed values. Teachers can choose or not to empower and enable people toward awareness of the current values prevalent in their environment.

  1. A humanizing pedagogy has to  conscientizise its participants, a process of making them aware of their true position vis-a-vis  imposed values acting as an agent of liberation. Reaching beyond “awareness,” conscientization acts with imagination and commitment to shed others’ values to live one’s own.
  2. A pedagogy of conscientization  begins by enabling people to name their own reality — to decode imposed expressions by using their own words about what they perceive in their socio-cultural-political context. They must use their own terms to describe it rather than having the educator name it for them. In this way the emancipating pedagogy through an encounter between teacher and learner  analyzes the environment to discover and free themselves from the imposed domination.
  3. Freire called himself a”vagabond of the obvious.” He meant that what people think they “see” is what they have been told to see through others’ codification of their social, cultural and political environment. He poses the kinds of questioning and reflective activities to “decodify” their reality, to see and name for themselves what is obvious, what is truly there — often “staring them in the face.”
  4. As people come to see for themselves, they can imagine what ought to be so as to act toward freedom from imposition. The teacher must engage people with “generative themes” by which Freire meant real life issues that pertain to their quest to live humanly in accordance with their values.
  5. Generative themes lead people to name and reflect critically upon them through dialogue, the opposite of what he famously called “banking education” — the process of depositing information in passive receptacles. It is through dialogical education around their own generative themes that people can move from dependency to agency for liberation, to act as “subjects” (not “objects”) to change their reality.
  6. Within dialogic education, Paulo saw all participants as co-teachers and co-learners together, learning from each other. Not all lecturing need be  banking education; it depends on the content and the dynamism of the presentation, whether people are led think for themselves or not.
  7. For Freire education should always be an “utopian activity,” full of trust in people and confidence in their potential to be agents of their own liberation. This is amazing given that much of his work was with poor illiterate peasants. Liberation becomes a praxis: the action and reflection of people upon their environment in order to see it as it really is.
  8. Conversation perhaps is a more engaging term than dialogue. Also, Freire’s political analysis, even of his Brazilian context, is now well dated. And in our modern systemic, hidden and media dominated society Freire’s pedagogy can be oriented as much for those that dominate  as it is for the dominated. https://www.ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/take-and-read-pedagogy-oppressed)